The Conference of the Birds

Alexis York Lumbard, Author, Alexis York Lumbard, Retold by, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Foreword by
Retold by Alexis York Lumbard, illus. by Demi. Wisdom Tales, $19.95 (44p) ISBN 978-1-937786-02-1
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
Lumbard’s debut picture book retells for a young audience the most famous work by the 12th-century Persian poet Farid al-Din Attar about a pilgrimage taken by birds to meet “King Simorgh the Wise.” Sorrowing because they lack kingly guidance, the birds gather together, receive help from the inspired hoopoe, and depart on their quest. Along the way, individual birds confront spiritual obstacles: the parrot’s heavy jewelry weighs her down; the finch fears the storm; the hawk, seeking to arrive first, becomes lost. Prose narration alternates with the hoopoe’s rhymed speeches of encouragement, which contain a recurring refrain: “So do not let this impatience/ Destroy this golden chance./ Release its hold upon you now,/ And to your King advance!” Set against white full-spread backdrops, red-bordered gilt frames decorated with small birds contain Demi’s uncluttered paintings featuring brightly colored, meticulously rendered birds against pale or royal blue watercolor washes. A foreword by scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr provides insight into Sufi poetry and bird symbolism in diverse cultures. Both prose and illustrations combine simplicity and elegance, ably rendering this classic tale for a new generation. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)